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Housing Market Expected to “Spring Forward”

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Just like our clocks this weekend in the majority of the country, the housing market will soon “spring forward!” Similar to tension in a spring, the lack of inventory available for sale in the market right now is what is holding back the market.

Many potential sellers believe that waiting until Spring is in their best interest, and traditionally they would have been right.

Buyer demand has seasonality to it, which usually falls off in the winter months, especially in areas of the country impacted by arctic temperatures and conditions.

That hasn’t happened this year.

Demand for housing has remained strong as mortgage rates have remained near historic lows.

The National Association of Realtors (NAR) recently reported that the top 10 datessellers listed their homes in 2016 all fell in April, May or June.

Those who act quickly and list now could benefit greatly from additional exposure to buyers prior to a flood of more competition coming to market in the next few months.

Bottom Line

If you are planning on selling your home in 2017, meet with a local real estate professional to evaluate the opportunities in your market.

 

Posted by The KCM Crew

8 Proven Ways to Increase the Resale Value of Your Home

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Making your home more attractive to prospective buyers can be as simple as sprucing up the kitchen with a new renovation or refreshing the decor.

Heed these 8 suggestions from real estate pros to ensure your property gets the highest possible price.

Little things mean a lot when it comes to selling your home and getting a great price for it. But if everything counts and you have only so much time and money to invest, how do you know where to start to get your home for-sale ready and to fetch the best price?

The good folks at Consumer Reports National Research Center set out to answer just that, with an online survey of 303 real estate professionals from around the country.

As we head into the hottest selling season and with 5.3 million homes expected to change hands this year, use some or all of these strategies to help you leverage all you can against the competition.

  1. Stage and declutter your home

One of the panel members Consumer Reports consulted was the former executive producer for This Old HouseMassachusetts realtor and renovation consultant, Bruce Irving. Bruce was previously interviewed by Oprah protégé, Nate Berkus, and The New York Times called him “the house whisperer.”

“Do all the work necessary to make your property look good, not through expensive changes but through excellent staging,” says Irving. “Your agent should be able to provide proper advice and even bring in a professional.”

That means clearing out your clutter.

“I have a gal who I send into listings to declutter and depersonalize for sellers and just tidy things up using the sellers’ own possessions for the most part,” says Karen Wallace, an agent with Lyon Real Estate, located in Auburn, CA.

Tara Miller of Tarabell’s Designs in Portland, OR, does just that: she helps homeowners and agents stage their houses for maximum sales appeal.

Miller points out that people who don’t keep up on needed repairs end up spending the most when it comes time to prepare a home for sale.

“It’s remarkable what regular home maintenance, cleanliness, and minimizing clutter in your everyday life can do for you when it comes time to sell.”

She also notes that staging a home is very different from designing or decorating. “It’s a tough thought, but not everyone likes your pets, hobbies, sports teams, or religion.”

  1. Clean it up!

“If it’s dirty, it will not sell — even if it’s a great place,” says Kathy Partak, a realtor with Select Estate Properties in Auburn, CA.

In fact, most of the agents we spoke to focused on overall cleanliness and space as the biggest factor in selling your home.

And cleanliness pays off, according to Consumer Reports: cleaning can deliver a 3% to 5% return on investment, and this is something you can do yourself.

When showing your home, Irving adds, “Raise window blinds, lower toilet seats — make sure the place looks at least as good as it would if you were having your boss over for dinner.”

  1. Enhance your curb appeal

First impressions sell your home. As soon as a potential buyer drives up to your house, they’re making judgments — and a messy yard or a broken mailbox could cost you.

“Exterior space is ‘free’ extra square footage and is so appealing to buyers,” says Wallace. “It pays to enhance it.”

But if your staging budget doesn’t include the outdoors, Partak suggests making the most of the walk from the car to the entry.

“Make it look nice from the curb with some easy potted or planted flowers to trim the walkway.”

  1. Pay attention to details

The details that you may believe are insignificant can turn out to be major selling points for your home. For Irving that includes everything from paint touch-ups throughout the house to a full redo of public rooms.

“Wash your windows, replace compact fluorescent bulbs with incandescent or halogen, and remove or minimize personal photographs,” he says.

If you have a small budget, Partak suggests upgrading to energy-efficient windows, and adding new appliances in the kitchen. “These are always the things that bring in more money.”

  1. Refresh your kitchen and bath

Don’t forget two of the the most important rooms in your home: the kitchen and bathroom. Consumer Reports estimates that you can increase your home’s value by as much as 7% through renovation.

If you don’t have renovations in your budget, Kristen Kohnstamm, principal broker and co-owner of Dunthorpe Properties, a luxury real estate firm in Portland, OR, recommends fresh paint, a low-hanging opportunity to freshen up your space and potentially boost your asking price.

Choose a neutral palette to increase the appeal to as many tastes as possible; buyers need to be able to easily visualize themselves living in the home, and bright colors might turn them off.

“The worst thing you can do is put lots of money into things like carpet, paint, and other aesthetics that a new homeowner will likely want to change,” says Kohnstamm.

  1. Invest in good photos

Make sure your real estate agent offers great photos that show your home in its best light when it comes time to list. Home buyers seeking a new place to live will see the pictures online before ever making a decision to visit.

And when it comes to open houses and showings, Irving suggests you “absent yourself” because sellers can sometimes get in the way of a sale by taking things too personally.

  1. Don’t DIY everything

Irving’s top tip includes a good finger-wagging at people who think they can DIY a home sale and still come out ahead.

“First and foremost, for correct pricing, widest and best marketing, and the highest price, hire a real estate agent,” says Irving.

  1. Try not to take it personally

Kohnstamm cautions first-time sellers to temper their emotions when it comes to the sale of their home. This won’t necessarily increase the value, but will speed up the sale.

“Whatever comments are [made] about your home, they’re never intended as a personal affront. Remember, everyone has different tastes, but clean and well-maintained never goes out of style.”

Image credit: flickr

 

Posted by Vanessa Nix Anthony on Trulia

8 Ways To Find Healthy Neighborhoods In Your City

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Neighborhoods that make it easy to go for a run or kick around a soccer ball could give your lifestyle a health boost.

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Your neighborhood could play a factor in your overall health. Here are some considerations to make during your house hunt.

From green space to traffic volume, the neighborhood in which you live could contribute to your health. Think about it: If your neighborhood lacks easily accessible areas for you to exercise, you’ll probably exercise less, at least outdoors. Just as the addition of playgrounds gives children a place to play, sidewalks, for example, can encourage you to get out and walk. And when you do spend time outside in your neighborhood, you’re more likely to get to know your neighbors, which adds to a feeling of community. So whether you’re shopping for a home for sale in Denver, CO, or Columbia, SC, here are some factors to weigh if a healthy neighborhood tops your list of must-haves.

1. Look for sidewalks and bike lanes

Being able to walk or bike for exercise or to conduct daily errands is good for you — plus, less traffic and air pollution means a healthier planet too. Even having access to public transportation can contribute to a healthy lifestyle, since there’s usually some walking to get to your bus stop or train station. “Safety and walkability to a vibrant mix of services, schools, and various modes of travel are keys,” says John Zinner, a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design Fellow with the U.S. Green Building Council.

2. Don’t underestimate a lush tree canopy

New developments often produce houses that dot every “i” and cross every “t” on most people’s home wish lists. But some new neighborhoods and developments end up with a sparse tree canopy. That’s too bad, because not only do trees often enhance property values, but they can also contribute to a healthy neighborhood. “Tree canopies cool spaces,” says Cassy Aoyagi, president of FormLA Landscaping, a California sustainable-landscaping firm. A cooler lot means your HVAC system doesn’t have to work as hard in the heat of summer. Those trees can also provide shade for your outdoor pursuits. But the best part just might be that greenery in general is good for you. “Lush, green spaces have been shown to decrease stress, even mitigating symptoms of PTSD and ADHD,” Aoyagi says.

3. Look for neighborhoods with greenways, community gardens, and trails

The more access you have to nature — and nature’s bounty — the healthier you’ll probably be. “Locating a healthy neighborhood has increasingly become a must-have for many buyers,” says Danielle Schlesier, a Boston, MA, agent. “I point [buyers] toward the community parks-and-recreation website. There, they can see if there are local farmers markets, community fitness programs, greenway trail maps, and dog parks available.” Another great tool to locate your favorite healthy amenities is the Live Well layer in Trulia Maps.

4. Observe neighborhood social connections and activity level

Having a sense of security and even happiness comes with being able to socialize with your neighbors. Visit the neighborhood you’re considering at various times of day to see if people are out and about. Are neighbors chatting out front? Jogging on neighborhood streets? Out walking their dogs or playing with the kids? All of these are positive signs that a neighborhood has a thriving, active, and close-knit community.

5. Scout out parks, sports courts, and places to play

The healthiest neighborhoods offer variety and versatility when it comes to recreation and active living. In addition to nature exploration resources like trails and greenways, look for neighborhoods that offer tennis or basketball courts, playgrounds, parks, fitness centers, and pools. You may have to pay for these extra amenities through homeowners’ association (HOA) fees, membership requirements, or simply higher home prices, but the ability to easily diversify your workouts can lead to greater health and fitness.

6. Go to a neighborhood association meeting

Mark your calendar for the next meeting of the neighborhood association or HOA in the areas you’re considering. In addition to meeting your potential neighbors, you could get an inside look at neighborhood concerns (such as safety issues or traffic congestion) and find out about future construction or plans for enhancements. You’ll also get a sense of how close-knit the community is. An active, positive group of neighbors working to continually improve their neighborhood can clue you in on future healthy upgrades coming to a neighborhood. Plus, if you’re trying to narrow down your options, going to a few of these meetings could help you decide where you’ll really feel at home.

7. Consider traffic volume

Limited traffic, both in volume and speed, can contribute to a healthy neighborhood. But what makes high traffic unhealthy, exactly? Noise, for one. The more traffic there is and the faster cars travel, the noisier the environment, which can affect your sleep and stress levels. There’s that pesky little pollution issue, for another. Plus, longer commutes due to higher traffic volumes can decrease your overall quality of life. Check what your possible commute could look like using the Commute layer in Trulia Maps.

8. Check to see if healthy essentials are within walking distance

Healthy neighborhoods incorporate plenty of ways to be active, but they also have essential services nearby, such as day care centers, pharmacies, doctors’ offices, a hospital, and urgent care. Easy access to affordable, nutritious food from supermarkets or farmers markets is important too — it’s even been associated with less obesity. And give your future new neighborhood bonus points if any of these essentials are within walking distance!

 

Posted by Laura Agadoni on Trulia

 

 

7 Smart Tips For Renters With Bad Credit

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Wondering how to rent with bad credit? Even if you’re a first-time renter, there are ways to land a place without a perfect score.

Bad credit? You might have a tough time qualifying for that rental you love so much.

Real talk: Many landlords now rely on a credit check to vet potential renters, especially in competitive markets. (Just try hunting for an apartment for rent in Chicago, IL, and you’ll feel the pinch of a poor score.) Like it or not, your credit history can be used to assess how much of a financial risk you may pose to a landlord. Are you going pay your monthly rent on time, or does your credit report indicate that you have a history of paying bills late?

But there’s hope. Many renters lease apartments with bad credit (or no credit at all, if you’re a new college grad, for example) and work to boost their scores while renting. So how can you land an apartment if your score is lackluster?

Here’s how to rent with bad credit:

  1. Find a guarantor or co-signer. This is both the easiest and most complicated approach: Ask a parent, trusted friend, or relative with good credit to co-sign the rental application with you. In theory, it’s an easy solution, because while you’ll be the only one living in the apartment, your co-signer agrees to cover the payments in the event that you default on your rent. This can provide a landlord the extra reassurance they need. Of course, it’s complicated because someone else is on the hook for your behavior. You don’t actually want your co-signer to be forced to make payments for you, so be sure the monthly rent is an amount you can afford comfortably. Be realistic about what might happen to your relationship with your co-signer if you default on the lease.
  2. Be honest and show progress. Sometimes, bad credit isn’t a reflection of bad money management. You may have lost your job, suffered from medical problems, or experienced another financial setback that was out of your control. If this is the case, be upfront about it — before the landlord even runs your credit check. Your willingness to admit and own up to your bad credit is a point in your favor. It also gives you the opportunity to talk about the steps you’ve taken, and are currently taking, to improve your credit score. Whether it’s a proven track record of paying your bills on time or references from recent landlords, this will show your prospective property manager that you’re responsible and committed (even if your credit is less than perfect).
  3. Pay rent in advance or increase your security deposit. Bad credit makes landlords nervous because it indicates that since you defaulted on past bills, you might default on the rent. By paying a month or more in advance or offering a two-month security deposit, you can alleviate their concerns. Not only does this show your commitment, but it also provides them with extra cash that can cover some of the losses and damages should you skip out on the rent. (Which, of course, you won’t.)
  4. Get a roommate. Willing to share your living room and kitchen? Find a roommate. If the landlord will allow just one person to sign the lease, see if your roommate is willing to sign it solo. (Alternatively, try to move in with a roommate who is mid-lease and can add you without a credit check.) This way, the person on the lease is the one with more solid credit. Roommates come with another benefit: you’ll be able to share the bills. By reducing your financial burden, you can continue to pay down debt and repair your bad credit faster — a true win-win!
  5. Show solid income and offer to pay via direct deposit. Even if your credit history is a little shaky, being able to show a history of regular, consistent income can go a long way toward making a landlord feel better about you. When applying for an apartment, have proof of income ready, such as recent pay stubs, tax returns, and even a letter from your employer verifying your employment status and income. Offering to have your rent automatically deducted from your bank account can also help.
  6. Compromise by paying a little more. Some landlords charge additional “risk” fees if your credit score is poor. You may want to consider taking the hit if you really love the apartment, or if you need to quickly find a place to live. If you’re dealing with an individual property manager who is inclined to deny your application, you may be able to negotiate a slightly higher rent as a gesture of good faith.
  7. Bring recommendations. You’d bring letters of recommendation for a job application; why not bring the same when you’re trying to rent? Letters of recommendation can reassure a potential landlord that you’re a responsible person who won’t cause them any problems. Ask for letters from current and previous employers, landlords, and even past roommates who can vouch for your character. Even if your previous landlords were only for short-term rental arrangements, their endorsements can hold weight.

 

Posted by Paula Pant on Trulia

 

3 Fresh Home Design Looks for the New Year

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Metallics like copper and rose gold made a big splash in 2016. So what does 2017 have in store for us?

2016 was a great year for interior design. So many trends were influenced by new innovations and technology; beautiful colors took new form; unique silhouettes filled every room of the home; and textures and fabrics breathed life into otherwise traditional furnishings.

But it’s a new year, and time for new looks. Here’s a peek at three current trends that will have the interior design world buzzing in 2017.

Va-va velvet

For years, the design industry has been buzzing about texture, and how plush or sinuous fabrics flip a design on its head for a totally unique effect. In 2017, the texture trend continues with the rise of velvet.

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Courtesy of Zillow Digs.

Velvet is a classic fabric that periodically enjoys a new surge of popularity. This year, we see velvet used on every furniture piece imaginable, from ottomans to dining room chairs to the smallest fringed detail.

This trend is all about adding just the right amount of ‘ooh la la’ to any space, without diving too deep into luxury.

Get the look:

  • Jewel-toned velvet fabrics add a luxe look to any piece of furniture. Cover an ottoman or desk chair with this sophisticated upholstery for an elegant boost.
  • Create a masculine setting by pairing navy velvet dining chairs with a rich wood table and metallic place settings.
  • Add glamour to a master suite with velvet drapes. Hues like rich emerald green or soft blush add just the right touch of sophistication, without overwhelming the space.

Darling denim

Everyone loves a great pair of jeans, so it’s no mystery why the design world is falling for denim fabrics, motifs, and patterns for home interiors.

Channeling indigo hues and a perfectly worn-in feel, the denim trend of 2017 offers approachability to furnishings, finishes, and fabrics alike.

Taking cues from the velvet trend, denim-like fabric can be found on ottomans, window coverings, bed linens, and area rugs, offering a simple yet sophisticated take on everyone’s favorite fabric.

Get the look:

  • Dip your toe into the denim look with a duvet cover or area rug. These larger linens make a huge impact on your space without being too permanent.
  • Denim hues go well with metallic finishes. Adding this hue to a bathroom space via hand towels or a beautiful rug will make your polished nickel hardware “pop,” or give your favorite brass faucet a modern feel.

Stripe story

Designers use stripes as a “neutral” element to anchor a space with clean lines and bold colors. In 2017, stripes will be used as a statement-maker all on their own.

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Courtesy of Zillow Digs.

With a bold brushstroke down the middle of a wingback chair, or as a reimagined wallpaper pattern, the single stripe is the new must-know print. Stripes, whether a simple pinstripe or graphic configuration, can be worked into any space, from uber-modern to tailored and traditional.

Get the look:

  • Get graphic with a single bold stripe down the back of a wingback chair for added flair without the commitment to a full stripe pattern.
  • A beautiful pinstripe-patterned wall covering adds impact without crowding a room’s design. Add this easy look to a powder bathroom for an instant style boost.

 

Posted by Kerrie Kelly on Zillow

 

Inadequate Inventory Driving Prices Up

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The latest Existing Home Sales Report from the National Association of Realtors (NAR)revealed a direct correlation between a lack of inventory and rising prices.

We are all familiar with the concept of supply and demand. As the demand for an item increases the supply of that same item goes down, driving prices up.

Year-over-year inventory levels have dropped each of the last 18 months, as inventory now stands at a 4.0-month supply, well below the 6.0-month supply needed for a ‘normal’ market.

The median price of homes sold in November (the latest data available) was $234,900, up 6.8% from last year and marking the 57th consecutive month with year-over-year gains.

NAR’s Chief Economist, Lawrence Yun had this to say:

“Existing housing supply at the beginning of the year was inadequate and is now even worse heading into 2017. Rental units are also seeing this shortage. As a result, both home prices and rents continue to far outstrip incomes in much of the country.”

But there is good news about rising prices. More and more homeowners are recovering from a negative equity situation and learning that they are able to sell their homes and either move up to their dream home or downsize to a property that will better suit their needs. Look for these homes to come to market soon.

Bottom Line

Buyer demand continues to outpace the supply of homes for sale. Listing your home in the winter attracts serious buyers who are looking to close the transaction quickly.

 

Posted by The KCM Crew

Homeowner’s Net Worth Is 45x Greater Than A Renter’s

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Every three years, the Federal Reserve conducts a Survey of Consumer Finances in which they collect data across all economic and social groups. The latest survey, which includes data from 2010-2013, reports that a homeowner’s net worth is 36 times greater than that of a renter ($194,500 vs. $5,400).

In a Forbes article, the National Association of Realtors’ (NAR) Chief EconomistLawrence Yun predicts that by the end of 2016, the net worth gap will widen even further to 45 times greater.

The graph below demonstrates the results of the last two Federal Reserve studies and Yun’s prediction:

Put Your Housing Cost to Work for You

As we’ve said before, simply put, homeownership is a form of ‘forced savings.’ Every time you pay your mortgage, you are contributing to your net worth. Every time you pay your rent, you are contributing to your landlord’s net worth.

The latest National Housing Pulse Survey from NAR reveals that 85% of consumers believe that purchasing a home is a good financial decision. Yun comments:

“Though there will always be discussion about whether to buy or rent, or whether the stock market offers a bigger return than real estate, the reality is that homeowners steadily build wealth. The simplest math shouldn’t be overlooked.”

Bottom Line

If you are interested in finding out if you could put your housing cost to work for you by purchasing a home, meet with a real estate professional in your area who can guide you through the process.

 

Posted by The KCM Crew